Organic farm, lovely B&B accommodation, meals based on their own meats, fruit and vegetables, online produce sales, self-catering, holistic treatments – is there any offering that Bernadine and Jimmy Mulhall may have overlooked at their family farm?
Well, yes, there was - in 2012 they decided that they were missiing something very obvious: a venue, particularly for weddings. A beautiful barn conversion soon followed (it featured on RTE TV's 'At Your Service') and is now available for family occasions and other group bookings.
Situated pretty much on the Carlow-Kildare-Laois-Kilkenny borders, the location allows easy access to much of the South-East (and indeed to Dublin, should you wish to go there) but, with a real country living experience available on site, you may well prefer to stay put: set on three acres of natural woodland with three lakes and lots for children to do (and pets permitted in self-catering by arrangement), it’s an ideal family holiday destination, or for people of any age who enjoy rural life.
There are so many good things about Coolanowle that it's hard to know where to start, but their home-produced organic food and traditional home cooking has to be the trump card, especially as it is served with a generous dose of genuine hospitality – tea with home bakes on arrival, great breakfasts, dinner by arrangement – even a traditional Sunday lunch featuring joints of their own organic meats.
Dinner is a treat, enjoyed in a bright antique-filled room with double doors opening out for summer dining, and guests find the no-choice menu a relief from the constant decision-making we all have to do. What could be better that an organic feast such as just-picked garden salad with home-produced bacon lardons to start, followed by their own 21-day aged rib-eye steak with home grown vegetables – and rhubarb crumble to finish? It’s sociable too, with guests divided between two communal tables.
The accommodation is also delightful – not only the very comfortable rooms in the main house, but also the two self-catering cottages and a log cabin, which are ideal for families.
The atmosphere is homely and informal, with an open fire in the drawing room for guests to relax beside, and that lovely feeling of being properly in the country on a working farm, with walks and lots of interesting things to see and do.
And, when the time comes to leave, you’ll have a breakfast to remember too, including their own delicious home-cured bacon and home-made sausages and newly-laid eggs among the treats. If every visitor to Ireland could experience this kind of hospitality, we’d be beating them from the door.